BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

YOU ONLY SING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING: Stoke defeat sees Cardiff fall off the top of the table

So near yet so far, one of many missed opportunities City had to score

The Blue Army were in fine vocal form for the first 60 minutes of the game, out singing the home fans the way only Cardiff can. Then Stoke banged in three goals within 5 minutes that finally brought the home fans out of their shell and got them singing.

Not sure if 3-0 was a fair reflection of the way the game went, but we definitely deserved to come away without any points. Preston’s draw tonight saw them go top, city now trail in second place by one point.

If you had told me at the beginning of the season we would be in second place at any point of the season I would have laughed, but having been top for so long it now seems to be a major disaster to be in second place.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: A visit to the belly of the beast

We all love MPs, which is why they need protecting from us!

I have been interested in politics for a good many years, being involved with several ‘left leaning’ groups over the years. My politics are still developing.. anyone who does not constantly review where they stand are doomed to be bogged down in out dated dogma. I have become tired of party politics and am settling into the idea that my flag is probably best nailed to the anarchist pole. Somewhat ironic then that now that I have come to the conclusion that representative democracy as we know it in the UK is bankrupt, I have found myself inside the Houses of Parliament several times in the last few years, and even found myself in Number Ten last year. Today I was in Parliament again, this time taking part in a union mass lobby to protect the Local Government Pension Scheme.

I am of the opinion that lobbying is a complete waste of time, MPs do what ever they want, or increasingly in the case of the Labour Party, whatever Tony wants them to. Lobbying is worse than a waste of time; it legitimises the existence of MPs, who are merely the democratic face of the State, a State that is increasingly oppressive and war like. At the end of the day, the true power lies with the big money, the oil industry, the arms industry, the tobacco industry, media barons etc. As the old saying goes, if voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.

For reasons I wont go into here, I had to lobby the MP for Blaenau Gwent, Dai Davies. Dai is the Independent MP that represents the seat that was once the third safest Labour seat in the country, until they tried to parachute in one of Tony’s Cronies on the retirement of long standing left wing MP Llew Smith. Within minutes of meeting Dai, I actually took a like to him. Despite being an independent now, he was for a long time the chair of the local Constituency Labour Party. He resigned when Number Ten started dictating who should represent the constituency. Dai is ‘Old Labour’ through and through, an old skool socialist. If I had to spend some time in the company of an MP, Dai is probably the one MP in Wales I could talk to that was not going to make my flesh crawl.

Many of the others taking part in the lobby utilised the ‘green card’ system and hung around in the lobby hall waiting for their MP to turn up… I know a few that waited over an hour for Chris Bryant, MP for the Rhondda, who did not have the courtesy to turn up or explain why. Dai on the other hand, came looking for us before we even got into the house, coming across to the Methodist Meeting House where we were having pre-lobby briefings. We chatted for a while then he took us over to Parliament, helping us to beat the queue to get in, but not without us having to go through the airport like security to get in.

He took us up to his office and we chatted there for half an hour or so about pensions, housing stock transfer, hospital closures, the Labour Party, Trident, how most MPs have completely lost touch with their constituents, the idea that MPs pay should be tied into the average wage of their constituents, football and generally got on like a few valley boys sat in the pub. On his bookshelf were books by the likes of John Pilger and on his wall was a poster from his election campaign that had the strap line ‘Party politics is killing parliamentary democracy’. I could not agree more.

On the way out I stopped to have a chat with friends still waiting for Chris Bryant, then headed for the pub happy that although I had compromised my principles, at least I had spent time in the company of a human being.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

OMNIA OPERA: Return of the Space Bastards

Andy Opera reminds us how it used to be done

Omnia Opera ceased to be some 13 years ago. I never got to see them before they split and got quite excited at the prospect of their come back gig in Malvern tonight (and I don’t normally do excited).

We headed up to the Opera's home town of malvern early and managed to sit down with vocalist and bass player Andy for an interview for the fanzine. He was a friendly dude, down to earth and generally an all round geezer that happens to climb up onto the stage for an hour at the end of the night.

The venue was tucked away in a residential area with no pubs near by, so after the interview we sat around sampling the local Malvern Gold Cider and occasionally popping out to the gazebo for a smoke (it was a no smoking venue).

Authority put us to shame with their sartorial elegance

It did not take long for the venue to fill up with a mixture of locals looking for a night out and old fans that had travelled quite a distance to witness the return of the space bastards.

Support came from Authority, featuring Karvus Torabi of the Cardiacs. Not sure what to make of them, decked out in suits they banged out a punky mod vibe that did not really flick the right switches for us, but it has to be said we were all in space rock mode, eager for the return of the Omnia, not to mention the fact that the 6% Malvern Cider was starting to kick in.

The future is bright, the future is psychedelic green

Then, was the entrance of Omnia Opera. The psychedelic outfits have gone, but the lightshow was of the highest order, equal to any club in the land and probably the best light show that has ever graced a youth centre. Storming straight into the finest space rock in this dimension. They have been described in the past as “more like 70’s Hawkwind than 70’s Hawkwind”. I am not sure what that is supposed to mean but it may well mean that this is what Hawkwind wanted to sound like but could not quite get it right, with a hint of Ozric Tentacles chucked in for good measure. The 13 year old numbers did not sound the least bit dated as they fried the brains of the gathered disciples with ear melting technodelic space punk and retina scorching visuals.

This was something I had given up hope of ever witnessing when I heard they split all those years ago. Now, not only have I ‘ticked off’ another classic band I missed out on, but it looks like this will be the start of things to come, with more gigs and new recordings on the horizon. I can’t wait!

Friday, November 17, 2006


A mere 13,250 crowd watch City fall to QPR. Last season this would have been considered a good turnout!

Cardiff was over run by sports fans tonight. Wales were playing Canada at rugby in the Millennium Stadium, drawing 70,000 fans into town, while City were playing Queens park rangers, drawing another 14,000 into town.

City don’t normally play on a Friday night, but the game had been rescheduled to be broadcast live on satellite TV. The rugby up the road, combined with the game being on the telly, meant the crowd was down from the recent showings, but City were still given a loud and boisterous welcome at Ninian Park. The presence of the TV cameras inspired some on to sending messages to any Swansea City fans or rugby watching and generally there was a great atmosphere.

Unfortunately, City chose this TV appearance to put in one of their least sharp performances of the season. It was end to end football for 90 minutes, but Citys finishing was always lacking. Despite hitting the bar, the ref not giving two clear penalties and a goal being disallowed, City lost to a late goal from QPR.

With Preston winning, we are still top of the league, but only for alphabetical reasons at the moment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE: Thoughts on living on an island

Croyde bay, Devon. Surfers paradise

Over the last week I have been to away on union business to two different coastal towns/villages. Last weekend I was away at Croyde Bay in Devon, today I was in Llandudno, North Wales.

Nothing particularly noteworthy happened on either of the trips, but it did get me thinking about living on an island. It is easy to take fro granted the fact that I live ½ hour from the sea and very few places in the UK are more than an hour from the coast.

Llandudno, even the Vitorians appreciated the wonder of the coast

I am not a big fan of boats or any kind of water sport, but I just love sitting on the coast and watching the huge vastness of water doing what it does, relentlessly. It was there when life first showed itself on earth (in deed that is WHY life showed itself), it has been around forever, it has never been tamed, we know very little about what is at the bottom, it drives our weather systems and it will be there when we are gone.

I cannot imagine living in the middle of a huge continent thousands of miles from the sea. Millions, if not billions of people must spend their entire lives without seeing the ocean. Two thirds of the planet is covered in it, yet people die everyday through lack of water.

Yes, I like living on a small(ish) island.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

TEMPLE IN A CHURCH: Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paradise UFO land in the Point.

I have been fascinated by the idea of the Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paradise UFO for a few years now, so when I noticed they were to play The Point in Cardiff it was a must see event. My socks were well and truly blown off.

This wigged out Japanese band have been around since 1996 and seem determined to confuse people on all levels. They have various other incarnations such as Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno and Acid Mothers Temple Soul Collective with band members floating in and out. Since 1996, they have released 40 odd albums of mind blowing psychedelic space rock. I have bought several albums because I was in love with the whole idea of the band but have found it extremely difficult to get into the freaked out free form feedback space jazz that they knock out. At times they rock like a cross between Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles, but to get to the intense bits you have to put up with hours of bizarre psychedelia that sounds like a cross between Syd Barret era Pink Floyd and the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band.

I had to go and see them, partly because I was convinced that to survive as long as they have they must have an amazing live show, and partly because of a morbid curiosity to see if they were really as bad as I thought they might be… a bit like going to see a car crash.

Well, they were pretty f*ckin’ damned awesome. There were one or two bizarre vocal moments but on the whole they rocked big time, taking feedback to places jimmy Hendrix only dreamed of.

When I got home I had to chuck on ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’ to relive the amazing bits where the guitar was thrust into the speakers to get maximum feedback. I sat through the whole hour (yes, they are the sort of band that record hour long instrumental tracks) and it did not quite do it for me. I think that is the whole point, sitting on the sofa worrying about disturbing the neighbours cannot compare to being there when the magic is being done with the volume up to nose bleed level, the lights scarring the back of the eyeball and the smell of skunk wafting through the room. Knowing what the real thing is like now though, I think I will have another go at listening to a CD all the way through.

PS: Big shout to Colin Powerstepper and the Tangled Parrot for putting the gig on, keep on blowing minds dudes!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

HA WAY THE SUN: Winter kicks in oop norf

Never really thought of Sunderland as being Coastal, even though I know it made its name in the glory days of shipbuilding, so it seemed a bit odd having a B&B with a sea view.

As we headed out in the morning, it was clear that the bitterly cold night spent on the terraces was not a one off, it was FREEZING. I was sort of pleased about this because it meant I could finally dig out the Hemp Hoodlamb coat I bought in Amsterdam but have not had a chance to wear yet because it has been so warm. We dropped down to the sea to be greeted by the most amazingly choppy sea ever. I can only assume there was a storm out at sea because it was not very windy but the waves were battering the coast as if there were a force 10 gale.

After spending over an hour taking photos of the sea, we wandered around to what I assume was once the ship yard, but is now a marina, pretty much like all those that seem to be springing up in the grave yards of all the old docks around the UK.

We did not hang around the sanitised marina area long, then we headed off to nearby Newcastle for a quick look around before we went home. Photographs of the Tyne bridge were a must, with the old bridge now complimented by the Millennium Footbridge and the contemporary architecture of the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art.

Then as we were heading south we just had to stop off and get a few shots of the amazing, humongous Angel of the North.